Essay On Does The Third World Exist?

1838 words - 8 pages

What do we mean by the term 'Third World'? It can be considered to be a name for a certain type of coherency and homogeneity among a group of people in the world. So, to rephrase the question, does there exist between the general regions that Third World is to encompass, namely Africa, Latin America and Asia, a unity and sameness? Also, what distinguishes them from the rest of the world? This leads on to ask of the nature of these supposed similarities so that it can be ascertained whether they are a reality today. There are various possible determining categories in which to view Third World coherency such as the economics, geography, history, politics and psychology of the region. This essay will briefly deal with each separately, although they all interrelate with each other very closely. Different theories in the past have offered their views, favouring the coherency of one or a few categorisations over others, and some of these are now anachronistic. The categorisation is deeply political and important economically; as will be shown, it has been seen to be about power for subjugated people and it determines credit rating for financial support. Also, why do we ask this title question? It is really so that we can understand the assumptions and complexities that shape this concept in order approach the question of development in an open minded wayThe Political and Psychological Third WorldThe term 'Third World' was first coined in 1952, by the Frenchman Alfred Sauvy to give form to the desire of those countries that lacked access to economic opportunities, to find a 'third way.' The first and second ways, being those of the capitalistic First World and the socialist/communist Second World. It was politically motivated since these countries had been subordinated by both sides, they wished to form their own identity, and gain strength in that. Sauvy ended his article with, "The Third World has, like the Third Estate ("Tiers Etat" of the French Revolution-the class of commoners), been ignored, exploited and despised and it too wants to be something."This formal non-aligned and neutralist movement began after The Bandung conference in 1955 organised by Indonesia, India, Burma, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka bringing together 29 countries in solidarity to gain political influence. However this was also underpinned with shared anti-imperialistic feelings, and fights for independence of colonial rule. After the end of the Cold War, the non-aligned motive for solidarity declined and as John Toye argues in his book 'Dilemmas of Development,' decolonisation was the real driving force for any unity that existed. He said, "The psychology of Third Worldism is the psychology of decolonization." Peter Worsley also explains where original grouping lay;The coherence of such a group was necessarily dependent on the presence of a common enemy. It was a negative unity: politically, against colonialism; in economic terms, a solidarity between the 'proletarian nations' in opposition to the developed ones.Theorists of the counter-revolutionary school of the 1980's such as Bauer, have viewed the Third World and therefore the instituting of 'development' as having been created psychologically out of guilt for colonisation and out of the fact that all these regions receive foreign aid. They argued then that since in their view, the West was not responsible for the situation, and that the aid did not actually help, it was all a figment of the imagination and so the Third World could not really exist. Conversely, Toye perceptively believed that this is not true since, just because it is a creation of the mind, it does not mean we can just let it go; you only have to look at all the conflicts that exist, the people's need to be part of a strong and larger entity to see "(the Third World) is the result of... our inability in our present difficult circumstances yet to see ourselves as belonging to one world, and not three."The Third World can be seen to generally exist, then, in this psychological and so political sense.A Common History?Is there an 'objective' Third World? Can Africa, Latin America, and Asia be grouped together through real history? The colonisation of the Americas by the Spanish Empire lasted from 1492 to the declaration of independence in 1824/25 and the Haitian revolution against France took place from 1817-18 through to the 19th century. But North Africa only became a French colony from the 1830's onwards and the 'Scramble for Africa' took place in the last two decades of the 19th century, with independence throughout the middle of the 20th century. In South Asia the 1857 Indian mutiny introduced the formal British colonial rule which lasted until 1947. The Dutch empire was in control of Indonesia from the 17th century also up to the 1940's. Ethiopia and Liberia were the only European recognised independent states. So, whereas the dates of colonisation in the different regions revealed not much of a common history, with there being a colonisation of Africa post-dating the decolonisation of Latin America by roughly 100 years, decolonisation, apart from Latin America, generally had a similar period of occurrence from the mid-20th century onwards. However Latin America was increasingly dominated by the rapidly industrialising United States, and so they would have been impeded from taking part in a non-alignment movement for fear of antagonising the US.Also, the different Empires operated in distinct ways; the British and French administrations were very different, with the British often using the 'indirect rule' method in Africa and India, while the French, using the example of Algeria, considered it to be an integral part of France. These differences had significant consequences for post-colonial history and independence. From this it can be seen that the Third World definition, can only apply very generally, and mostly so for common periods of decolonisation. Even the countries not colonised, Toye argues, shared with their neighbouring colonised countries the desire to avoid it.GeographyCan we conceive of there being a rich North and a poor South? It is true that many poor countries can be found south of the equator, although a general statement. Still, this skates over important differences, there are severe inequalities within 'poor' countries, the wealth of people in New Delhi or Buenos Aires literally sit next to poverty.There are also differences in exposure to natural hazards and disasters such as those that are weather related. The regions close to either side of the equator will experience hurricanes, floods and tsunamis with those close to fault lines, earthquakes and volcanoes. In the tropics, diseases such as malaria, river blindness and bilharzia will reap havoc. Those regions with poor soils, pests and certain types of predators will have consequences for agricultural capabilities. Different regions have different capabilities for handling these, and destruction of infrastructure and health are very costly. Thus these patterns will have an effect on the economic patterns of growth in the Third World.The Economic Third WorldThe original theory of there being a coherency here was Modernisation theory, which stated that after colonisation these countries were to emulate modern society in order to have a better quality of life. The conception of these countries was of a less developed economy; people farmed on subsistence, there were low rates of growth, trade with other countries was poor, and there was poor infrastructure. The Third World was viewed as homogenous with typical less-developed economies. A relationship was created, in which western values were imported uniformly (and foreign aid was given to that purpose.) Arturo Escobar points to this:The coherence of effects that the development discourse achieved is key to its success as a hegemonic form of representation: the construction of the poor and underdeveloped as universal, preconstituted subjects, based on the privilege of the representers; the exercise of power over the Third World made possible by this discursive homogenization (which entails the erasure of the complexity and diversity of Third World peoples, so that a squatter in Mexico City, a Nepalese peasant, and a Tuareg nomad become equivalent to each other as poor and under developed)...Escobar voices that due to the different histories and diverse cultures of these regions, this supposed homogeneity was inaccurate and therefore you can not have only one development formula. Toye further argues that nowadays, if there had previously been any economic similarity, a growing diversity among the Third World has made this claim void. The long-standing slow economic growth in Africa and the recent debt crisis of Latin America results in different rates of 'disintegration.' These rates also contrast with the speedy growth of the East Asian tigers. Therefore there is a growing polarisation between poor and rich within the Third World. Toye argues that these economic discrepancies may also have political connotations, as for example conflicts between less developed, and least developed countries may arise over financial concessions made by the First World. Bearing in mind that Toye wrote his book in the mid-eighties, he makes a final point that although the Third World desires political unity, it has not yet achieved it.In summary, politically and psychologically, the Third World group has been brought together through common enemies and ideals, although possibly more because of the former. Although, their current economic situations may pull this political unity apart. Historically and culturally it is well understood that Africa, Asia and Latin America diverge widely, while there is a certain similarity in the period of independence. Geographically a grouping here can not be made. And economically, the idea of 'underdevelopment' being a common feature of the Third World was biased and so inaccurate, with recent varying growths of the different regions further revealing contrasts.We can see that the incongruent history and geography of the Third World shape its economics and in turn shapes its politics and psychology, although these can be removed from reality to reflect hopes of what it could be. This political drive in turn goes someway to creating the Third World in the minds of people (and so the actions of people), which in the end, is where most of the world's events could be seen to take place. The question of whether the Third World exists, therefore could be answered 'not really' in the objective sense, and 'sometimes' in the subjective sense (people's perceptions.) This is of course relating to the issue of the superficial structures that we see in the world. One must not forget that, referring back to Toye's quote, we are a one world in reality.


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